The Garden of the Royal Palace at Purdonium. Enter KING VUSILLUS,
QUEEN VULPECULA and PRINCE FELIX, attended by ETTY.
VUSILLUS: Felix, my lad, when I told thee o’ th’ council
I did not tell thee all. I did bethink me
That one surprise a day was quite enough
For thy young wits. So now, here is the second.
I think thou’lt find it welcome: thou’rt betrothed!
FELIX: Not Wilhelmina of Aschafnaburg!
VUSILLUS: Nay, lad, would I betrothe thee to that mare?
My choice is far more pleasing to thy taste:
Princess Gloxinia of the Permians,
As fair a maid as e’er a man could wish,
Eighteen years old, with curling golden hair
And eyes of china blue; she’s trusty, loyal,
Helpful and sisterly, courteous and kind,
Obedient, smiling, thrifty and quite clean.
She’ll strengthen our alliance with the Permians
And be the queen of all Toxaemia
When I drop off the twig; and before that
She’ll fortify our house with grandchildren,
Little Vusillus and Vulpecula,
The future rulers of Toxaemia:
Her hips are wide: they’ll pop out like green peas.
Thou’lt be in love with her from the first glance,
And, to make sure the two of ye agree,
I have invited her this very day:
She’ll be here soon. What dost thou say to that?
FELIX: I know not what to say, my father dear:
I am astounded. I am only twenty:
Dost thou suppose me old enough to wed?
VUSILLUS: I was bethrothed at six to thy dear mother,
And she was two. We wed when I was twelve.
Thy little sister Sheba, as thou know’st,
Hath been betrothed for seven months and more
To th’ Palgrave of Gazunder-Pickelberg,
And they shall wed when she is seventeen.
I judge thee old enough, though thou art backward
In the pursuit of love, to put it mildly.
The only reason that I’ve not betrothed thee
Until this time is that thou lacked all interest
In th’ palace maids. I told my concubines
To see if they could rouse thy flaccid will,
But they all failed.
FELIX: And not for want of trying:
Each night I climbed into my curtained bed
There was a woman in ‘t.
VUSILLUS: At last I thought
Thou rather did prefer the way of Sodom,
And made discreet enquiries through the palace;
But thou wast just as hopeless with the lads.
Well, now, ’tis time thou take the plunge at last,
And who to plunge in better than Gloxinia?
(A Sound of Flutes and Lutes.)
I hear her party: stiffen up, my boy,
Look like a prince that she might like to marry,
Not like thou hast been sentenced to be hanged.
VULPECULA: Aye, and tuck in thy shirt unto thy trews,
Pull up thine hose; thou look’st a proper sight.
(Enter PRINCESS GLOXINIA attended by her Maid, CLEMENTINE.)
VUSILLUS: Welcome, my dearest lady, to Purdonium!
Now, with thy leave, I wish to introduce thee
To my dear son, Prince Felix of the Marches.
FELIX: I am enchanted to make your acquaintance,
Princess. I have just learnt we are to wed.
GLOXINIA: The pleasure is entirely mine, dear prince.
I only found out yesterday myself:
Is ‘t not amazing?
FELIX: That it surely is.
My father said that ye were dazzling fair:
I see he did say sooth.
GLOXINIA: My father told me
That ye were the most handsome of all princes:
I see he told no lie.
VUSILLUS: I am most glad
That ye two are so much in love so soon.
We’ll leave ye twain to flirt with one another
So that your love may blossom without hindrance.
VULPECULA (aside, to FELIX): And take thy hands out of thy pockets,
(Exeunt VULPECULA, FELIX and CLEMENTINE. ETTY pretends to go with
them, but conceals herself behind a Hedge.)
FELIX: Have ye e’er been to Prince’s Risborough?
GLOXINIA: Nay, never in my life: tell me about it.
FELIX: ‘Tis a fine town, but nothing like Purdonium.
GLOXINIA: Indeed, Purdonium is a fair city.
Have ye lived here for long?
FELIX: Aye, I was born here.
GLOXINIA: Of course, how stupid of me. But I wish
To know thee better ere we tie the knot.
Let’s talk of what ye love and what ye hate,
And whisper secrets as true lovers do,
For otherwise how can we be betrothed?
FELIX: I scarce know how to start. My age is twenty,
My greatest pleasure is to hunt the deer,
I am not fond of herrings.
GLOXINIA: Nor am I.
FELIX: I think that I can hear my father calling,
‘Twill be about the war, and most important.
I beg to take my leave of you, Princess:
We’ll speak again, and soon, for I depart
Upon the morrow morn to fight the foes
Of both our lands. Farewell, for I must run.
GLOXINIA: Till then, sweet prince, I shall be thinking of you.
Indeed I shall be thinking of the prince:
Sure he’s a hunk, but is ‘t a hunk of lead?
He never looked directly in mine eyes
And muttered about Prince’s Risborough.
Is he but shy, or is he such a dullard
That, faced by my fair charms, he doth not fall
Immediately in love with all his heart?
Who cares if he like herrings, by my troth?
I’ll wait for our next tryst ere I decide,
But at first glance the boy’s a nincompoop.
I’ll call my servant: Ho there, Clementine!
Where are the king and queen, and all the others?
CLEMENTINE: They be beside the river, taking wine.
GLOXINIA: And is Prince Felix with them?
CLEMENTINE: I did see him
Walking the other way, at a great pace.
Begging your pardon, lady, did ye like him?
GLOXINIA: He spoke to me of Prince’s Risborough
And herrings. It did not go very well.
Mayhap it will be better when we wed,
But he is certainly no ball of fire.
CLEMENTINE: The queen’s maid Etty hath told me of him:
He be no ladies’ man, and that’s the truth.
The king tried putting strumpets in his bed
And all he done was tell ’em to get out.
I’ve some good news: he runs not after lads:
Ye’ll light his fire, though it may take some kindling.
GLOXINIA: Well, I suppose I could do worse than him:
I think of my poor sister Araucaria,
Married at ten to Kevin th’ Terrible:
I held my nose all throughout the ceremony,
And now she doth live in a tent, with goats.
One scarce can tell her children from the dogs.
We’ll make the best of it, there is no choice.
CLEMENTINE: There, that’s my precious. ‘Twill not be so bad.
GLOXINIA: Let’s to the river, I must take a drink,
And not from th’ river either, by my troth.
(Exeunt GLOXINIA and CLEMENTINE.)
ETTY: Oo, I can hardly wait to tell Tilda of this tryst. A smasher like that,
and he did barely give her a glance. I think our Tilda be in with a chance
yet. (Sings) The king hath sent for a sex-kitten,
With golden hair and tempting titty.
But I don’t think the fish hath bitten
The bait she dangled – O, the pity.
For Felix be already smitten,
And he do want another kitty.
Her plan shall have to be rewritten,
And so I end my pretty ditty.
© Tachybaptus 2017